Rushdie and Naipaul

10 Mar

This quarter I took a class on V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie, which has kept my reading load for class high and my pleasure reading time correspondingly low. Luckily, these were books were more than pleasurable to read, so I hardly felt the loss of my own curl-up-with-any-book-you-want time. I am so glad to have been introduced to these two splendid authors, and really I recommend all their work highly, but here are some of my favorites:

NON FICTION:

In particular, if you are in the mood for some enjoyable, diverse,  interesting essays check out Salman Rushdie’s Step Across This Line, written during the ten years he was on the run with a price on his head due to a fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The topics range from 9/11 to the Wizard of Oz to Bono, and they’re all pretty great.

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If you’re looking to read some Naipaul non-fiction, I would try A Turn in the South a collection of essays written on the American South around 1989. Naipaul writes more like an investigative journalist than Rushdie, whose essays read like a column. Someone in my class described the two as opposite uncles, the lovable curmudgeon and the fun uncle you wish you could get drunk with. While Naipaul is a bit caustic, curmudgeonly and definitely politically incorrect, his subtlety won me over. While Rushdie is more exciting and fun to read at the outset, Naipaul has some really interesting things to say as well.

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FICTION:

I’m a sucker for allegory, and this is one of the, if not the most well-crafted allegories I have ever read. In Midnight’s Children, Rushdie’s second novel, the life of the protagonist, Saleem Sinai is allegorical with that of the independent Indian nation. I love finding the parallels between the two levels of the metaphor, which I was able to do for the most part thanks to some previous knowledge of Indian history and help from my professor for this class. If you want to really appreciate the novel, I would at least Wikipedia contemporary Indian history just to at least get the gist.

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A House for Mr. Biswas is a semi-biographical novel based on the life of Naipaul’s father (Naipaul himself also makes an appearance as Anand, Biswas’ son). Naipaul’s grandparents came to Trinidad (in the Carribean) from India as indentured servants, forming a large Indian diasporic community on the island. Where Rushdie is exuberant, Naipaul is snarky, so if you like snark (or dry humor in general) Mr. Biswas is your guy. Also, I love this cover art- mine is way less interesting.

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